Forced to retire, an old sea captain reviews his life and loves.
Mitsos Avgoustis, 75, has been a captain in the mercantile marine for 58 years. He’s losing his eyesight, and corporate powers are eager to replace him with someone younger and more predictable. Mitsos, however, is not about to go gently into that good night. In fact, at one point he threatens to keep his ship permanently at sea, because as long as it doesn’t dock in port the captain can’t be replaced. He is most at home in this “all-male village that never stayed put on the map,” rarely spending any time with his wife and children in Greece. “I love my family but from a distance of ten thousand miles,” he explains at one point. Unlike some of the ruffians in his crew, Mitsos is reflective and meditative, ruminating about his past and the unknowns facing him on retirement. Karystiani (The Jasmine Isle, 2006, etc.) periodically advances her narrative by including long letters to Mitsos from Litsa, his Penelope-like longtime mistress, whom he hasn’t seen in years. Even more than the menacing swell of the seas—and much like Tennyson’s Ulysses—Mitsos fears the domesticity of life on land. After a hundred trips around the world and millions of nautical miles traveled, he eventually finds himself on his small home island. He longs to remain useful, but eventually it’s obvious even to him that his load of Burmese silver will be “the last cargo in the last departure of the last sea journey of his life.” When you’ve done all you can do, it’s time to rest, Mitsos learns, but we can’t picture him being happy as a home-loving husband.
A poignant, moving novel about aging.